DURING HIS tenure as baseball commissioner for the energetic Howard County Youth Program, John Hein remembers arriving home from his day job and finding "15 or 16 phone calls and 20 e-mails waiting, about 90 percent of them the same kind of question."
Dealing with so many details - registration questions, payment questions, problems with coaches, coping with parents - on top of things related directly to playing games "is the kind of thing that makes so many people who volunteer to be commissioners of a sport burn out pretty quickly," Hein said. "And that's a shame because so many of them are really dedicated to the club."
Last week, Hein and HCYP took a big step to relieve commissioners and other volunteer leaders of some of those pressures. The four-sport club, which serves greater Ellicott City, announced the hiring of a full-time executive director to take over day-to-day business operations.
The new executive director is Mike Burroughs, 59, who has been active with HCYP for more than a decade, serving most recently as baseball commissioner and also a director of the corporate organization. Burroughs also is active as a leader in Boy Scouts, with Troop 737 in Clarksville.
Burroughs' job, said Hein, includes overseeing maintenance of Kiwanis-Wallis Park, the club's showcase baseball-softball complex, as well as registration for all sports, scheduling, being available to serve parents and children, dealing with equipment, negotiating with vendors, handling insurance and relationships with the county's Department of Recreation and Parks and the county public school system.
He also is reworking the club's Web site, a function that has become increasingly important for the larger clubs, given this county's extensive use of computers. Burroughs estimates that as much as 90 percent of the club's registration is occurring via computer, sharply up in just the past couple years. He spent much of his career in the computer business, he said.
Burroughs' hiring makes HCYP, one of the county's oldest and one of three or four largest youth sports organizations, the second to resort to hiring a full-time person to oversee day-to-day business. The other is the much larger Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County, which has had paid daily leadership for a number of years.
"I consider him to be a perfect fit for the job," said Hein. "We've gotten big enough now that it was time to look at ways of running our program as a functioning business."
Burroughs, a county resident for 12 years, has three sons, all of whom have either played or are still playing sports in the club. He is originally from Alexandria, Va., and most recently was in the real estate business.
Burroughs, who started work just after the new year, said one of his primary missions will be to help each of HCYP's sports benefit from the experiences of others, given that each now essentially operates separately.
Cooperation, he said, can involve things such as screening and teaching coaches, buying equipment and other facets of leading youth teams. "I hope to be a full-time resource for all of the sports," he said.
HCYP, founded as a baseball organization, has about 1,250 players in that sport, about 800 in softball, about 1,700 in boys and girls basketball, and another 250 in volleyball. The youth volleyball program, which operates during the fall, is the only pre-high school feeder program in the county.
For now, Burroughs is working out of his home, but he said the club is getting bids on what it would cost to put a second story on a garage/warehouse building at Kiwanis-Wallis Park for new offices, as well as more storage space for basketball and volleyball equipment.
Office space is needed, he and Hein said, because the club wants a central spot where parents and children can go for information. Now, each sport's commissioner deals primarily with such matters out of his or her home, which becomes an undesirable and inefficient way to conduct business.
"Short of building that second story, we may have to move a trailer to Kiwanis-Wallis and use that as offices for a while," Burroughs said.
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